If you are a US citizen or permanent resident with family members living abroad, it is possible to help their family member get a green card as well. However, the details are important here and it is not guaranteed that permanent residency will be granted for whoever asks.
Understanding Which Family Members You Can Help Immigrate
Individuals living in the US can petition in order to bring a family member to the US (also referred to as “sponsoring”) if they are an actual US citizen or hold a green card. You are only able to bring the family members that are listed below.
If You Are You Can Petition For Immigrant’s Category
US Citizen, 21+ Parent(s) Immediate Relatives
US Citizen, 18+ Your Spouse Immediate Relatives
US Citizen, 18+ Unmarried children under 18 Immediate Relatives
US Citizen Married/adult children 1st or 3rd preference relative
US Citizen, 21+ Siblings 4th preference relative
US permanent resident Unmarried children 2nd preference relative – 2A, 2B
US permanent resident Spouse 2nd preference relative
Not on the list: Cousins, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, Parents-in-Law, and extended family.
Individuals on the above list are allowed to immigrate to the US, expect for the immediate relatives, and are allowed to bring their immediate family (spouse and children). Once they get a green card, such individuals are then able to petition other people to immigrate, based on the criteria in the above table.
How Long Will it Take
Immediate relatives are given green cards that don’t have annual limits or waiting periods. There is still a few months wait for the application to process, but there shouldn’t be any further delays. Preference relatives have a much longer wait – generally a few years – before their application will be accepted and processed.
There are also percentage quotas for the amount of green cards that go to any country annually. If there are an unusually large number of petitions involving people in certain countries – frequently Mexico, India, the Philippines and China – it will take longer even than the regular several-year wait. This, coupled with the yearly limits on the number of green cards given out, it is impossible to predict just how long the wait will be for individuals in the preference categories. What we can know with certainty is that applicants in categories that are in higher demand generally wait for less time than those in lower preference categories. Below is a table with average wait times from September 2015 (excluding the unusually-high wait countries from before).
The Current Waiting Period Average
Preference Relative Category Average Length of Wait
Unmarried, adult child of US citizen First preference 8 years
Spouse or child of permanent resident Second preference 2 years (spouse and minor children); 7 years (children 21 or older)
Married child of US citizen Third preference 12 years
Sibling of US citizen Fourth preference 13 years
Starting the Application Process
Anyone you sponsor must go through a series of steps in their application process. As a US citizen or holder of a green card, you need to begin the process when you submit your visa petition. The individual you are petitioning for won’t be able to enter the US until the petition, application, and any other documentation has been received and approved.
Petitioner vs. Sponsor
Frequently you’ll see a US citizen or permanent resident referred to as a “sponsor” when they are helping a family member immigrate. This isn’t the legal term, but it is common enough. Technically, this would be a “petitioner,” because the person is submitting a petition on behalf of a family member. Your family member would be a “beneficiary.”
Become a US Citizen
If you are only a green card holder – not a citizen – applying for US citizenship as soon as your five years have passed. When you are a citizen, your family members will have a faster application process by becoming an immediate relative instead of a preference one.
Tell Your Children Not to Marry
Marrying makes it more difficult when wanting to immigrate to the US. If you petition for an unmarried child and you are a permanent resident, when they marry they lose their eligibility. Even if you are a US citizen, the marriage would still move them to a lower preference category and their wait would increase significantly. It’s important that you and your children understand what will happen to their immigration eligibility if they decide to get married.
Increase the Odds with Multiple Petitioners
It’s never a bad idea to have multiple family members send in petitions for people wanting to immigrate to the US. Many things can happen – death, divorce, even lost applications! Both a mother and father can apply for their child, or a green card spouse and the hopeful immigrant’s US citizen parent could both submit a petition for the same person.
Have More Questions about Nonimmigrant or Temporary Visas?
There are all kinds of temporary visas. Unfortunately, the laws around them are incredibly hard to understand – even those with advanced degrees have trouble figuring them all out! It’s a good idea to hire a qualified lawyer who has made it his business to help people trying to bring their family members to the US. If you need professional help to navigate the complicated visa application process, look no further than the Law Offices of Yoel Molina P.A.. Yoel has experience assisting people just like you with their American Dream. Give our office a call and we’d be happy to discuss your legal needs and concerns. Call- 305-548-5020 now.